Fairies and Dragons of the Desolate Plain

Caught between the youthful conviction that just because you can’t see something it doesn’t mean it isn’t real and a growing realisation that “nothing’s easy to understand anymore”, the cast of this this beautiful show present a story that is far more complex than might initially be assumed.

Fairies and Dragons of the Desolate Plain is an emotive and nostalgic play that showcases some wonderful young talent and some very creative stagecraft.

Newbury Youth Theatre return to the Fringe with Tony Trigwell-Jones’ latest play. Set against (and amidst) the First World War, it follows Anna and Mabel Lawrenson, sisters who want to change the world by proving that fairies exist. The ‘Desolate Plain’ of the title is the battlefield in France - which they know because of the letters written to them by their soldier father, who explains the War to them in terms of a desperate struggle between fairies, ogres, sprites and a ‘Loathsome Worm’.

The show’s large young cast are a force to be reckoned with as they move through the story, which jumps between an English train station, French trenches and a mystical labyrinth with grace and polish. The best bits in the show involve how they transform the stage into a variety of settings, using just wooden benches and their bodies, enhanced with effective choreography. This is especially potent in a haunting puppetry sequence that involves the entire cast and a torch to wonderful effect.

Clare Woodage creates an endearingly Lucy Pevensie-esque heroine in her portrayal of Mabel and Alex Storey is fantastic as the fairy Martagon. The layered form of the play gives it an unexpectedly complex message that adults as well as children will find touching, although I would suggest that the age suitability is is geared more towards that of a 10-12 year old than that of an 8 year old as stated on the website. A couple of musical numbers are less than pitch-perfect but the show’s other strengths make up for this.

Fairies and Dragons of the Desolate Plain is an emotive and nostalgic play that showcases some wonderful young talent and some very creative stagecraft. Definitely worth a visit. 

Reviews by Iona Gaskell

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The Blurb

Against the bloody backdrop of the Great War, two girls set out to prove that fairies exist but a nearby explosion leads to some life changing decisions. Inspired by stories of wonder from the front, NYT presents a new play about courage, dreams and believing in magic. ‘NYT have once again brought a must see show to the Fringe’ **** (ScotsGay, 2015). ‘Storytelling at the highest level’ ***** (FringeReview.co.uk, 2014). ‘Utterly captivating’ (TheEdinburghReporter.co.uk, 2013). ‘Vibrant storytelling’ ****** (BroadwayBaby.com, Bobby Award winner 2012).

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